Satellite to Plunge Into Somewhere, Earth, Next Week

By Frank Heinz
|  Friday, Sep 16, 2011  |  Updated 4:53 PM CDT
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Satellite to Plunge Into Somewhere, Earth, Next Week

NASA

This conceptual image shows the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, launched on Sept. 15, 1991.

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Sometime next week a dead NASA satellite will fall back to Earth, read that as part of it may crash back into the ground uncontrollably into an area yet undefined.

NASA expects the satellite to break up into pieces during re-entry -- though they say not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere and estimate that more than two dozen pieces may make it to terra firma.

They also say we shouldn't worry and that no one has ever been hit by falling space junk in the past. I trust NASA and take some solace in their assurances, however when the odds of getting struck by some part of the 6-ton upper atmosphere research satellite (UARS) are 1-in-3,200 ... well, those odd's aren't exactly as high as I'd like them to be.

After all, taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to the odds, the chances of this thing crashing down on my head are better than the likelihood of me hitting a hole in one, which are 1-in-5,000, (if you've ever golfed with me, you know this to be especially true) or of cutting myself while shaving, the odds of which are 1-in-6,585 (and that should really be more like 1-in-20).

Interestingly, the odds are greater I'll get hit by this thing than being named an astronaut, the odds of which are 1-in-13,200,000.  Don't worry, the odds of the satellite hitting an astronaut are also 1-in-3,200, so they're no safer than the rest of us.

According to NASA's latest estimate, the satellite will make it's plunge, hopefully into an ocean, on Sept. 23. NASA expects to give the public more detailed information early next week on where the satellite may fall. But, for now, they're warning all inhabitants of all continents, except Antarctica, to beware of incoming space debris.

Keep looking up, or it may be the last thing you didn't do.  

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